Climate Crisis Cannot be Tackled without Shift Away from Damaging Land Use, Major Report Warns
8 August 2019, Geneva (Switzerland) - According to an authoritative new report presented in Geneva today, the way we currently use land is both a major contributor to climate change and places unsustainable demands on the land systems on which humans and nature depend.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC
) Special Report on Climate Change and Land explores the relationship between climate, people and land in a warming world. It warns that climate change is placing
additional stress on land, increasing degradation, and biodiversity loss and food insecurity.
Dr Stephen Cornelius, Chief Advisor on Climate Change and IPCC Lead for WWF, said:
“This report sends a clear message that the way we currently use land is contributing to climate change, while also
undermining the land’s ability to support people and nature. We need to see an urgent transformation in our land use.
Priorities include protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and moving to sustainable food production and
“Good land choices are fundamental to tackling the climate crisis. A shift to sustainable land management must be
accompanied by the necessary rapid and deep cuts to fossil fuel emissions if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement
. Action on one alone is not enough.”
To play its part in tackling climate change and keeping global heating to 1.5°C, the EU must emit zero net greenhouse
gases by 2040. The EU must take action in several areas, notably:
• Agreeing an EU net zero emissions target for 2040
, and increasing the 2030 climate target to 65% emissions reductions, as soon as possible;
•Phasing out coal and fossil fuels
in a socially fair manner, including by ending subsidies for them and ensuring a strong decarbonisation strategy for
industry, whilst providing support to people in regions in need to make the transition;
• Turning the recent EU plan on deforestation
into powerful legislation which ensures that no product linked to deforestation or ecosystem destruction may enter the
EU market; and
•Reforming the Common Agricultural Policy
to encourage farmers to move towards climate- and nature-friendly farming, such as protecting and boosting the carbon
content of farmed soils or cutting the EU’s production and consumption of animal products.
Humans use approximately 72% of the global ice-free land surface. Land use contributes around 23% of total human-caused
greenhouse gas emissions; primarily through deforestation, habitat conversion for agriculture and livestock emissions.
The removal of forests, conversion of peatlands and other natural ecosystems releases carbon, while at the same time
contributing to unprecedented biodiversity loss and land degradation. The food sector alone is responsible for 75% of deforestation worldwide
, with the greatest pressure on forests taking place in the tropics. It is also a major driver of savannah and grassland
Climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilisation and stability - through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and greater frequency of some extreme events.
“Delayed action will increase the risk of climate change impacts on food security. Those most at risk are the world’s
“Early action to address the climate crisis has the potential to provide multiple co-benefits across the whole range of
land challenges, with many options contributing positively to sustainable development and other societal goals,” added Cornelius.
The report highlights the synergies and trade-offs inherent in our land choices. WWF considers an integrated suite of sustainable land management tools necessary to secure a climate safe future, while
supporting food security and nature. A New Deal for Nature and People
is required, and nature-based climate solutions should play a key role.
Therefore, WWF Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE
) is implementing local, nature-based solutions to land use and climate change issues along the Danube, its tributaries
and wetlands through its forestry, freshwater and green economy programmes. For instance, healthy wetlands and riparian
forests, as currently protected under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), can help us become more resilient to the
impacts of climate change. Our Living Danube Partnership
, as well as the LIFE-MICACC
(Municipalities as Integrators and Coordinators in Adaptation to Climate Change) Projects address some of these issues.
WWF-CEE also approaches land use and climate change problems by establishing or strengthening existing
sustainableecosystem services and use of natural capital, for example through its Local Economy and Nature Conservation
in the Danube Region (LENA
), and Promoting Payments for Ecosystem Services and Related Sustainable Financing Schemes in the Danube Basin (PES
) projects. Protecting old growth, virgin, riparian and high conservation value forests; restoring wetlands; pushing for
the removal of harmful dams and the prevention of new ones along the region’s rivers; instituting specific,
environmentally sustainable land use and agriculture management measures to create synergies between ecosystem services
and their socio-economic value; and enhancing ecosystem service management structures will improve the Green Heart of Europe’s
ability to adapt to climate change.
The science presented in the report further underlines that climate, people and nature are fundamentally linked. Efforts to mitigate climate change and halt nature loss must be fully integrated with climate adaptation and food
Land-based mitigation options make up to a quarter of total mitigation proposed by countries in their country climate
plans submitted to the UN under the Paris Agreement.
“Countries should make full use of nature-based climate solutions, together with other key measures such as reducing fossil fuel emissions, to enhance their commitments under the Paris
Agreement by 2020. The first opportunity to announce such bold plans will be the Climate Summit in New York in
September,” said Fernanda Carvalho, Global Policy Manager for WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice